Privacy experts say the problem is that states collect far more information than parents expect, and it can be shared with more than just a student’s teacher or principal. “When you have a system that’s secret [from parents] and you can put whatever you want into it, you can have things going in that’ll be very damaging,” says Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “When you put something into digital form, you can’t control where that’ll end up.”
According to a 2009 report by the Fordham University Center on Law and Information Policy, some states store student’s social security numbers, family financial information, and student pregnancy data. Nearly half of states track students’ mental health issues, illnesses, and jail sentences. Without access to their child’s data, parents have no way of knowing what teachers and others are learning about them.
Ignoring the Orwellian nature of the government, this is still pretty troubling. That’s a lot of data right there, all for the taking. And, given the nature of the data, it seems highly likely that a hacker could use it to steal a lot of identities. Don’t worry, though; the government has a solution:
The federal government is taking steps to make the data more secure, however. In December, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act was revised to give parents more control over their children’s records. According to a parent information sheet released by the government, the revisions give parents “certain rights with regard to their children’s education records, such as the right to inspect and review [their] child’s education records.” But it also allows student information to be shared without parental consent.
Of course, it’s easier to secure data when you don’t collect it in the first place.